Dirty Dancing Singapore: 2 breakthrough stars and a killer number.
The Singapore production of the iconic 1987 film sees Luigi Vigliottio and Bryony Whitfield take on the iconic roles of Johnny Castle and Frances “Baby” Houseman, respectively. The musical brings us on a journey with Baby where she discovers the art of dirty dancing, finding love and seeing things from a brand new perspective. So, how did the entire production fair? Here’s our take!
A report card for the leads of the musical:
Luigi Vigliottio: B+. Luigi is Gareth Bailey’s (who sadly injured his knee) understudy and boy, did he not disappoint! It was a real treat watching him make the role of Johnny his own. He made a perfect fit for a dance instructor. Luigi’s sleek dance moves, nimble feet and seemingly endless stamina was commendable. His dashing good looks and well-built physique didn’t hurt at all! However, it was obvious at times he was still trying to take in the fact that he was playing Johnny and was just a tad stiff.
Bryony Whitfield: A-. A highly impressive performance by Bryony indeed! She managed to portray Baby from when she was a non-dancer to begin with, and blossoming into this amazing dancer by the end of the the show. Bryony cited this as one of her main challenges of her role, but she managed to nail it. (Read more about it here) Her enthusiasm for the part shone brightly throughout her spirited display.
Breakouts! Firstly, we have Mila De Biaggi, who plays Penny. She had a standout performance, sashaying her way across the stage with exuberant confidence, making her a highly likeable actor/dancer to watch. Secondly, Sebe Leotlele. She possesses a pair of lungs that seemed capable of blowing the roof off the theatre! Her set of pipes is impressive on her solo pieces she has and she’s one to watch! She easily schools many of today’s “pop stars”.
Moving on to the actual show, to summarise it in one sentence it would be: Dirty Dancing is burgeoning on the edge of greatness, but sadly, it has to be content with being good for now.
Don’t get me wrong, the dancing was spectacular and mind-blowing. The twists and turns the entire cast manoeuvres through the entire 2.5h duration of the show left me in awe. To say that the dancers were brilliant simply does not give enough credit to them. After all, Dirty Dancing is all about the dancing and everything else takes the back seat.
That established, the entire show in general was not very well gelled together. To provide an analogy, it is like trying to style a perfect Mohawk but you run out of hairspray halfway and there are strands of hair that are fraying and out of place. It is quite frustrating to see such a classic story falling flat because the structure is not up to par. Act 1 was jerky and there was no clear linkage between numbers or scenes. Act 2, on the other hand, appeared much more polished and easier on the viewers.
I did love the technicalities of the production though. The smart move of placing the band above the stage allowed them to double up as the band at Kellerman’s. The stage had a revolving part built into it and it helped tackle any space constrains that the numbers might have faced. The full-length LCD screens by the side of the stage allowed the setting of the resort to be brought to the stage. However, there was a particular scene where Johnny and Baby was practicing their lifts in the sea, which was all sorts of weird with the juxtaposition of a screen and the scene and the actors behind the scene.
Of course, the killer number has to be Time of My Life. You could feel the anticipation building up throughout the entire night leading up to it. The energy was electrifying and Bryony Whitfield, Luigi Vigliottio and Mila De Biaggi literally brought the house down. The entire night climaxed when the iconic lift was carried out to a T. My only complaint was that the singers seemed to be trying a little too hard and were over singing majority of the time.
All in all, I would say that Dirty Dancing is definitely worth a watch, given the iconic status of the show. Don’t expect to get wowed but you’ll be entertained. Just lower your expectations just a little and you’ll find yourself grooving to the dances and singing along to the oh-so-popular songs like Be My Baby, Do You Love Me, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, and of course, (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.
Check out our interview with Bryony and Luigi here!